Solon: Duterte-Xi closeness dangerous, may jeopardize West PH Sea claims
MANILA, Philippines – Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate has warned that the extreme closeness between President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese president Xi Jingping may be dangerous for the country, as the stake at the West Philippine Sea (WPS) may be jeopardized.
The party-list representative said this on Thursday after Duterte’s latest letter to Xi, on the 45th anniversary of the two countries’ diplomatic ties, was made public. In a letter dated Wednesday, Duterte assured Xi of the country’s commitment to maintain ties with China despite challenges.
“The seeming overcloseness is dangerous because our territories and EEZs [exclusive economic zones] are being occupied by China and they continue to disregard our claims in the West Philippine Sea,” Zarate said.
“Also the deals they have pushed with the country like the Chico and Kaliwa dam deals extremely disadvantageous to the Philippines. It is also very tragically ironic that we are to commemorate the Philippine’s Independence day tomorrow,” he added.
Aside from the letter, the strong ties between the two countries were exhibited again late Thursday night, when the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines revealed that Duterte and Xi talked over the phone.
The two leaders, according to the Embassy, discussed their governments’ COVID-19 response and the cooperation in combating the virus.
Duterte talked with Xi while staying in Davao. He is not expected to attend the Independence Day rites at Luneta Park, and instead would be represented by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
Zarate also speculated whether the closeness between the two countries is a prelude to questionable projects.
“If the relations between the Duterte administration and China gets even closer we may have more onerous deals with the latter and we may lose some of our claim in the WPS to them,” the lawmaker said.
“It may be in preparation for this that the new terror bill is being hurriedly pushed now because that would ensure many massive protests against the government,” he added.
Ties between China and the Philippines have greatly improved under Duterte’s term, as his predecessor opted to engage in a legal battle with Beijing over the West Philippine Sea dispute.
However, critics of the present administration questioned the results of this renewed relationship, as the country has one of the highest COVID-19 cases in the Southeast Asian region, with over 24,000 patients — of which, 1,036 have died.
The dread coronavirus strain came from Wuhan City in China’s Hubei province. Worldwide, 7.373 million people have been infected, while 416,511 have died and 3.448 million have recovered.
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